Pacific Northwest | January 18, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineJanuary 18, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

The Waterfront Wait
Photo
COURTESY OF WATERFRONT AWARENESS
Both views look down on the parking lot for waiting motorists at the north side of Colman Dock near the waterfront foot of Marion Street. Dedicated in 1965, the contemporary ferry terminal is wider than the 1908 structure shown in the "then" view. The parking lot was also pushed north and is considerably wider than the eight lanes available in the 1930s.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
A MOTORCAR HISTORIAN most likely could quickly peg the year this photograph was recorded at Colman Dock. With little interest in cars since high school, I have only two "outside dates" to offer. In 1937 a new Art Deco ferry terminal replaced the 1908 vintage wharf. The older view also dimly reveals part of the west façade of the Exchange Building — at First Avenue and Marion Street — in the upper left corner. It was completed in 1930.

When built in 1908 with a landmark Romanesque tower at the water end, the Colman Dock was more than 700 feet long and fitted with 14 slips that could be raised and lowered with the tides. It was by far the busiest "Mosquito Fleet" landing on Puget Sound. Six of the dock's births snuggled against its north side, directly where the cars are parked in the early or mid-1930s.

This extended stage for parking was constructed in the mid-'20s when many of the sleek "Mosquito Fleet" passenger steamers were being humbled with conversion to ferries. Their pointed bows were cut open and their slim decks fattened over sponsons for cars. By 1923 the dock's tenant, the Puget Sound Navigation Co. — aka the "Black Ball" line — figured that it had already handled 28,000 "machines" on the Navy Yard Route between Seattle and Bremerton.

In 1935, the streamlined ferry Kalakala began landing here. Built on the burned-out hull of a California ferry, the Black Ball flagship was soon followed by 17 more Golden Gate ferries, moved to Puget Sound after the opening of the suspension bridges on San Francisco Bay made them obsolete there and cheap here as salvaged goods. (The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened in late 1936; the Golden Gate Bridge came the following summer.)

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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